The Indian Air Force (IAF) has earned kudos from Sri Lanka for its operations in the wake of the tsunami disaster, having flown over 300 sorties to airlift relief materials and to rescue hundreds of stranded people.
Complimenting the role of India's armed forces in relief operations in the island nation, Capt. R.C. Wijegunaratne, defence attaché at Sri Lanka's high commission here, said: "The speed with which the Indian government reacted and IAF in particular, proved instrumental in saving many lives especially within the first 24 hours of the disaster striking."
The IAF and Indian Navy launched relief operations in Sri Lanka soon after the tsunami struck Dec 26.
In spite of having lost manpower and resources at its strategic Car Nicobar base, where about 100 IAF personnel and their family members were killed or reported missing, the air force rushed into the relief operations.
Communication, road and rail links were cut off in Sri Lanka, and it was only through the assistance of the IAF that supplies and relief materials could reach affected people in time, said an IAF spokesman.
In Sri Lanka, the IAF has carried out 335 sorties and airlifted 175 tonnes of materials with six Mi-17 helicopters. An Il-76 heavy transport aircraft has carried out 13 sorties to airlift 209 passengers and 220 tonnes of supplies.
These supplies comprised food, water, tents, generators and medicines.
The IAF also rescued 625 people from tsunami-affected areas of Galle, Minnerya, Kattunajke, Ratmalana and Trincomalee.
The IAF is operating its Mi-17s from the air force bases at Minnerya and Kattunake, the spokesman said.